Slowly finding its way to the surface, YOU AND WHAT ARMY FACTION, the undeground project run by 4 imaginative musicians from Athens, has teamed up with IDIOTEQ to share their thoughts on the social-economic struggle in Greece and the art of gloomy dark wave post punk.
Darkness has depth, it invites you to come back and explore every nook and cranny. It radiates uneasiness, it’s sinister, emotionally involved, multi-dimensional.
Band photo by Nikos Katsaros.
Hi guys! Thanks for sharing some time with IDIOTEQ. How are you?
Hello there! It is our pleasure. We are doing quite good, if your consider the situation here
What’s happening where you are?
We are based in Athens, Greece. The social-economic turmoil of the past 6 years has left its mark on the country. Athens, being the capital, took the hardest hit. I’m sure you heard all about it in the news multiple times. To put it short there’s no future here. However, for some (not so) strange reason, the underground scene is flourishing.
Has this situation affected you, both personally and the band? What is the impact of the crisis on living standards?
Of course it did. The impact was more on a personal level mainly due to the high unemployment rate. It is over 26% among the general population but if you consider only ages from 20 to 40 years old it is way over 60%. Consequently, you cannot plan ahead anymore, you just live for today. Add a generous serving of depression, don’t forget to consider the 35% jump in suicide rates in a little less than 2 years and you will have an accurate overview of the sinking living standards in Greece.
Nonetheless, artistic expression loves harsh times so you may say that the band “gained” something out of all this. The dark and claustrophobic quality that many detect in our sound doesn’t emerge solely from our influences, I think. We have been very productive and the fact that most of our releases are home productions helps a lot.
What are tasks facing the movement of workers and youth? What main goals do you have as the movement willing to change what’s happening in the country today?
Hmm, that’s a tough one in the sense that we can go on for days talking about this. As mentioned above the main problem is the high unemployment. On top of that, (what is left of) the job market mainly consists of part-time job offers and calls for internships, which is pretty much unpaid work. Those that still have a job are either underpaid, which is the good case scenario, or get delayed in receiving their salaries. For example, a member of the band was working at a job where his payment was delayed for 10 months and in the end he only got half of it. The unions (workers, youth, students) are concerned with safeguarding working rights.
It’s difficult to change something now, things look more or less predetermined. People protested, we protested and still do, but still nothing changes. Solidarity is what we have left, we make each other smile and we survive another day.
Photo: THE YOU AND WHAT ARMY FACTION by Nancy Kosti
Ok guys, so let’s leave it for now and let’s start off with a little introduction to your band. Tell us a bit about your backgrounds, previous projects and the inception of YOU AND WHAT ARMY FACTION. How did you train yourself to make these creepy, swampy tunes?
The first traces of what now is THE YOU AND WHAT ARMY FACTION date back to the early 2000’s. Our singer/guitarist and our drummer knew each other from high school. At their university years they maintained a mail-based project, while living on different islands, where one would record an idea, burn said idea on a cd and mail to the other (high speed internet wasn’t a thing yet). It wasn’t something serious, all the recordings of this period are lost but it laid the foundations for the creative process of the Faction. Fast forward to 2006 and we have BORED WITCH, a post-punk 4-piece that involved 3 members of the current lineup of the Faction. This band was rather short lived but it managed to release an EP entitled “Weirdeyez Weird-Is” and give a couple of concerts.
The vision behind the forming of THE YOU AND WHAT ARMY FACTION was that of a collective where its members would enjoy total artistic freedom. In 2008 the Faction is first formed as a duo. As the years pass by old friends join the band and in 2012 the lineup reaches its current state with the addition of a second guitarist/vocalist who is also a member of the prolific, currently-on-hiatus, MOTHER DISOBEDIENCE.
For the second part of the question now, we wouldn’t say that the creepiness is deliberate. We believe that it comes off of our musical common ground which is mainly New York’s No Wave Scene and the British post-punk era. A contributor to the creepiness is possibly our approach to composition where we would often record all the instruments dry. Other times we would just take turns in layering tracks and then exchange a plethora of emails and links with the files of each session. All these leave a lot of room for experimentation in the production stage of the process. Well, that, and our collective illusion that all art should be somewhat dark to have any “artistic” value.
What inspired you to create this specific psychedelic, ghostly atmosphere in your art? Paradoxically, to what extent is your work based in non-musical influences?
To a great extent we would say. Aesthetics, after all, are formed through someone’s influences of all sorts and how he/she distills and absorbs said stimuli. The cut’n’paste attitude of DIY fanzines, the strokes of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Raymond Pettibon, the colours of Dario Argento, the stories of 2000AD comics and the cheap horror of the VHS era always reached and pressed the right buttons inside our brains. Add to that all the horrible little stories that keep happening behind closed apartment doors and there you have it.
Haha, what an electrifying mixture! Are there any specific bands or outside-music artists that really get the creative energies flowing for you?
Well probably SONIC YOUTH, SWANS, FOETUS, EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, THE EX, FUGAZI, CHROME, the whole Amphetamine Reptile Noise Rock thing…dark and ugly stuff mostly. There’s reggae also which is used in some songs as a rhythmic backbone or on the melodic textures of the vocals. It may seem a bit irrelevant but it gets everything creepier somehow and, fun fact, nobody noticed anything. Ever.
Occasionally, there’s a spark of creativity from out of nowhere. For example, I remember once I was watching an interview of Blixa Bargeld and at some point he started talking about the recording sessions of Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. There he explained how they got the idea of putting a snare-drum-triggered gate on his guitar which created that very interesting and unique guitar sound. It may be a standard technique for sound engineers but for us, that we record and produce everything on our own, it was an eye opener. We eventually ended up using a variation of this trick while recording Dancing Bruised Women.
Do you feel you have evolved since you first started developing your identity as a musician, or an artist in general? What elements and characteristics of this band helps you to continue marching forward and progressing?
We definitely believe so. When we first started we didn’t even have proper equipment. For instance, the vocal parts for our first album, FIXX, were recorded through a laptop mic. Since then we geared up, we let more things to influence and inspire us, we became better musicians, we grew older.
From a theoretical point of view you could say that as years pass by you change as a person and therefore as an artist. On the other hand, evolving artistically changes your perspective and thus pushes you forward as an individual. It’s a perpetual cycle of sorts, one thing fuels the other.
What the Faction is first and foremost, is basically a thing that “happens” among friends – the bromance thang keeps it going. That and having the ability to laugh insanely with each other’s jokes. Being considered one of the weirdest bands, in the local scene at least, also helps.
Photo by Nikoletta Geistesblitz.
What do you think it is about dark, atmospheric and gloomy music in general that draws listeners in?
Darkness has depth, it invites you to come back and explore every nook and cranny. It radiates uneasiness, it’s sinister, emotionally involved, multi-dimensional. It’s more probable to pick up a guitar when you’re feeling sad, angry, disappointed. If you consider also everyday life and the fact that an individual is troubled more often than not, then it becomes easier to see why listeners relate to atmospheric and gloomy stuff.
Ok, so it’s been a year since you guys released “Glum”. Did you feel complete once the album was done?
Yes, in a way it was a kind of closure. Since the beginning we were always into transforming into something else from one song to the next. Constant stabs on the rock song structure. GLUM, with all its different compositions was like a personal peak, there was no certain “sound” in the recordings, just lots of faces.
Photo by Nikoletta Geistesblitz.
Are you ready to unveil some new songs this year?
We are half-way through the recordings for a new album so you may expect a couple of new songs later this year. Other than that, we have a new single, Sadie’s Blood, which is contained in the split 7” vinyl with the noise/punk duo Rita Mosss. It was released through the DIY label Sweetohm Recordings.
How about touring? Any plans to hit the road sometime soon?
We love playing gigs, we have great memories from many of them but for the moment we are focused on completing the next album. The guys from Sweetohm Recordings have already expressed their will and enthusiasm about organizing a European tour for us; we will start talking about it once the album is finished. It appears that multi-tasking is not our thing.
Ok guys, lastly, are there any up and coming artists, which you think IDIOTEQ readers should definitely keep an eye on? Feel free to recommend some local bands and projects worth checking out.
SO PITTED‘s debut is amazing, we really dig their sound, they tick all the rights boxes in terms of references and at the same time they manage to sound unique. ORANSSI PAZUZU‘s Varahtelija sits among the most impressive albums of the decade. Ritual, the new FIRE! ORCHESTRA album and Poser by THE REPOS are also on heavy rotation.
RUINED FAMILIES, VICTORY COLLAPSE, CALF, CRUEL ANAGRAMS, ADOLF PLAYS THE JAZZ, THIS IS NOWHERE, A VICTIM OF SOCIETY, NERRVES, WHAM JAH, MECHANIMAL, MITIČ THREESOME and RITA MOSSS are good starting points for someone who wants to explore the Greek Post-Punk/Noise/Dark/Electro underground scene. Finally, it would be a pity not to mention our improv side project, CANISTER JAWS that involves an ever-expanding roster of, hopefully all, members of the bands mentioned above.
By the way, how is the independent music market for young people in Athens these days?
We would say that people are a bit more reluctant in spending money to buy music than the past. Also there is the fact that reissues always outsell new releases but this is more of a general phenomenon. Other than that it is quite good. Independent labels like Smash Records, Geheimnis Records, Eirkti and B-otherside keep things going with new releases almost every month and there is an audience that supports them. Moreover, the DIY movement is becoming more and more popular with the appearance of many DIY labels like MoreMars and Sweetohm Recordings, and of bands that decide to release everything on their own.
In general someone would expect that the market would be dead but it is not, not totally and not yet at least. Lately there has also been a drastic shift in the preference for concert venues. People (bands and audience alike) are embracing places with a political essence like autonomous social centers and squats. Admittance in such events is usually donation-box based, something that helps a lot. It provides the flexibility of watching quality concerts, supporting (local) bands as well as the hosts of the given event without missing the opportunity of adding a political twist in everything.
What is something of the biggest technical challenges for independent artists in this crazy digital era we live in?
Making your product known, first and foremost. Something that the digital thing is not going to give to you just like that. You can make a cool video – we actually did (watch below) – that goes “viral” or whatever and the next minute another takes its place.
Being in a band all this time as we happen to be, you come to realize that the only way to stand out and make an impact, if that’s what you ‘re going for, is the old way. You know, the Highway. You play some gigs, take your show on the road, sell some records, rinse and repeat.
Cool, thank you so much. Appreciate your time and insightful answers. Feel free to add your final words and take care!
It was a great pleasure for us to be here. Thank you very much IDIOTEQ!